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Campaign Watch Hungary: Turn Of Chances

by DoDo Wed Nov 2nd, 2005 at 05:34:53 AM EST

Elections will only be held May or June next year, but as I reported earlier, parties started campaigning early. (The main  players are: the governing post-reformed-communist MSzP [Socialists]; their shrunk-to-a-dwarf coalition partners, the ex-liberal-dissidents SzDSz [Free Democrats]; the populist-right-wing main opposition party Fidesz [Young Democrats]; and the also shrunk-to-dwarf old right-wing party MDF; for more details see this diary.)

Fidesz has long led the polls by a sizable margin. But in October, all four main polling institutions showed Fidesz and MSzP basically level. Interestingly, with the two pollsters thought closer to the opposition showing the MSzP ahead, and vice versa.

The same happened with poll numbers of the two leaders (PM Ferenc Gyurcsány and ex-PM-and-next-PM-wannabe Viktor Orbán).

I see no clear explanation for this. It is no statistical outlier - there is a two-three-months trend in all four pollsters' numbers, and both in the whole voting-age population and among likely voters.

Apparently, the budget deficit troubles that angered even the EU had no impact on public opinion (at least by the middle of October). There was much talk lately about stopping privatisation (see earlier campaign post), which should have benefitted Fidesz (a rather detailed poll showed Hungarians opposed to further privatisation and growing rather sour on various elements of capitalism; I'll add a comment with graph on this), but people apparently judged their campaign too demagoguic. I can't believe either that that many people believe the PM's promises of eradicating poverty (see again earlier campaign post) - given the empty treasury, and the open opposition of the yuppie economy minister. (Tho', looking at the dates, this issue could barely affect the polls.)

Also, in the last few months, there has been a scandal overdrive - that is, newspapers broke stories upon stories about what politicians on the other side supposedly did, with charges sometimes rather bizzarre (for example, a Romanian-Hungarian woman at the culture ministry is supposed to have been a Mata Hari for the Romanian secret service), often turning out to be baseless spin. Apparently, the population got weary and blamed Fidesz more.

It seems that with the next elections, Hungary will get even closer to the US situation - that is, unfortunately, there'll be a corrupt two-party system, and low turnouts at elections.

In details: SzDSz and MDF (which were the biggest parties in the first free elections in 1990), the last two small parties to stay in Parliament, look to be far away from the 5% margin. Thus the two big can continue to cooperate on keeping third rivals out and on being corrupt, and blackmail supporters with the threat of THE OTHER SIDE whenever they break promises. (This happened despite Hungary having a mixed, rather than first-past-the-post election system - but the FPTP part was too strong.) As for participation, those certain of going tovote are now at 50% - a record low...

As can be guessed even if you haven't read earlier diaries of mine (say, this one on the theatre that became of a referendum on preventing hospital privatisation), I don't like any of the choices available. However, if I'm really hard-pressed to pick the lesser bad, I'll say the MSzP's win would be that lesser bad. While incompetence, uninspired policies, corruption, bad choice of Western allies, neoliberal ideas, repugnant leaders can be found on both sides, the Fidesz's courting of the far (very far) right, its yuppie leaders' cynical recklessness and hunger for power exceeds that of the other side by a magnitude - four more years in opposition may at least teach them some lessons.

Also, if MSzP wins, this will be the first re-elected government since the fall of communism.

The poll was conducted by pollster MEDIAN (link in Hungarian).

On what to do about privatisation, 54% said let's stop further privatisation but let it be with what was already privatised, 27% want to revoke earlier privatisations, and just 9% want to forge ahead with what was left (hospitals, railways, postal service and some more).

However, that 54% for the status quo doesn't necessarily like the fact of privatisation, many probably just think undoing it would be too big a mess and open to further corruption - only that explains the very low numbers in the bar-graph below (which I prepared myself):

Image hosted by PicsPlace.to

Note: of the two earlier polls given for comparison, 1995 was the year of the Hungarian austerity programme, which pushed as many beyond the poverty line as the three years of IMF-prescribed recession during the last communist and first elected government. So where you see a rebound, what is of note is how small that rebound was.

Finally, the poll also asked people about a number of companies, testing whether people know which are still majority State-owned, owned by a domestic investor, or foreign-owned. Many people tipped wrong.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 2nd, 2005 at 06:31:27 AM EST

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